I deeply feel for my pregnant patients right now. I really do. What is supposed to be a time of joy, hope, and excitement has, for the most part, become a time of stress, anxiety and uncertainty. An event that usually brings families together has, unfortunately morphed into a solitary journey of isolation. While the course of COVID-19 is still information we are trying to understand, it is important to reach out and support those going through big life changes the best we can.
Research into how COVID-19 affects pregnancy is still underway, and we still have many unanswered questions. The same recommendations that apply to the general public apply to pregnant women, including physical distancing, masking when close to others and frequent hand washing. Within our practice, we are recommending pregnant patients limit contact with people outside their households, particularly within the last month of pregnancy. We recommend testing for COVID-19 during pregnancy since one of the risks associated with COVID-19 is an increased risk of blood clots, a risk that is already increased in pregnancy. Since pregnant women tend to be young and healthy for the most part, they thankfully tend to have shorter hospital stays than other patients with COVID-19 who have increased risk factors if they do end up requiring admission.
Whether the COVID-19 course itself is worse in pregnant women than non-pregnant women is still debatable. However, some studies have shown that pregnant women with COVID-19 are more likely to experience certain complications, such as being admitted to the ICU or experiencing preterm labor. Fortunately, it appears that transmission of the virus to the fetus is low, although this does become more of a concern with an active infection at the time of delivery.
The overarching consequence of all of this uncertainty is the mental toll that this pandemic is taking on my patients and their families. I am seeing increased rates of anxiety and depression. Women have had to miss out on the joyous experiences associated with pregnancy, such as gender reveals and baby showers. Hospitals are generally limiting patients to one support person in labor, meaning grandparents, siblings and other significant loved ones have to be excluded from these momentous occasions.
I am sharing this in the hopes that those of you with pregnant loved ones in your lives can reach out to help open this circle of isolation. Check in with the pregnant women you know to find out how they are doing. See if you can safely offer help to them, such as having food delivered or running errands on their behalf. While COVID-19 has fundamentally altered the way we live our lives, let us continue to watch out for and care for each other, even if it is in new unorthodox ways. This journey does not have to be an isolating one. We just have to become creative about how we can get involved.
Dr. Lara Hasan is a board-certified obstetrician/gynecologist with Advanced Women’s Healthcare. She takes care of and supports women across the age spectrum and is a proud member of the Desert Doctors Network. (760) 327.7900 www.DesertDoctors.org.